Following a brutal road game last week, Chivas USA have another bite of the proverbial apple this week, as they head up to Oregon to take on the Portland Timbers Sunday. Chivas USA beat the Timbers three times last season, but that was then, and both teams are substantially different in 2013. On top of that, the Timbers are currently riding high, while Chivas are in a slump at the moment. How will this game turn out?
We won't know until Sunday afternoon, of course, but in order to get you ready for the opponent, I spoke with Geoff Gibson, of SB Nation MLS blog Stumptown Footy, about his team. Big thanks to Geoff for taking the time to answer my questions!
The Goat Parade asks Stumptown Footy:
1. The Timbers may be the hottest team in the league right now. What has been going well for them, and can they sustain the results for the entire season?
Really, as with Chelis, it all stems from having a great coach who is tactically minded and knows what he is doing. Caleb Porter has instilled in his squad a sense of high possession, high passing, high attack that has really worked well for the squad on the whole. Of course, when you institute a new philosophy as such there are bound to be a few hiccups here and there and the Timbers' new squad has certainly bounced around a bit as they try to adapt.
As to whether they can sustain it. In the long term, I believe they can. But this is still a new squad by and large. Players are still trying to figure out what works and what doesn't with regards to positioning and tactics. They'll certainly be stronger than they ever have been this season, but I think the next few seasons will be really telling.
2. Like Chivas, Portland brought in a new coach who was new to MLS this season. What's your opinion of Caleb Porter so far, and is it true he's going to revolutionize the league? (half-joking on last part)
Porter has a great tactical mind for the game. It's really quite impressive what he's been able to do with the team is such a short amount of time. I think beyond what I mentioned already, however, is that he's also just a great leader. You can ask the countless players who have played for him in college and with the USMNT U-23 squad that these guys are giving 110% for him each time they step out onto the field. That's something that I think is quite rare among many head coaches, perhaps even some of the more esteemed ones in MLS.
I think if the Timbers have consistent success under his tenure you'll probably see other teams who want to mimic the success through similar tactics and coaches. At the very least, Porterball (as we call it up here) is highly entertaining and that's something I'm sure MLS wants.
3. The Timbers have been beset by injury problems in the center of defense this season. Who is now manning the centerback spots, and do you think they are truly up to the task game in and game out?
Right now it's Futty Danso and Andrew Jean-Baptiste. Futty, while considered a last resort type defender in the past, has really stepped up. I don't know if he learned some things under Mikael Silvestre, or if it's just that Porter-effect, but he really is a quality starter at this point. Jean-Baptiste has his ups and downs, as any youngster would have. He can be quite brilliant at times, but then he can also be duped into a grabbing-fest which sees the opposing team afforded a PK, as with what happened in Dallas.
Next week sees Norwegian international Pa Modou Kah join the team. How he fits into the squad remains a mystery, but that signing could not have come at a better time.
4. Prediction for this match?
I don't do match specific predictions myself, as I'm a bit superstitious in that way. I will say, however, that Portland will come out guns blazing. They're still undefeated in 8 games, but they haven't actually earned a full 3 points since their Sporting KC game a few weeks ago. They won't be content with sitting back for a draw.
Here's my predicted line up:
Donovan Ricketts; Michael Harrington, Futty Danso, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Jack Jewsbury; Will Johnson, Diego Valeri, Diego Chara; Darlington Nagbe, Ryan Johnson, Rodney Wallace
You can find my answers to Geoff's questions here, if you are interested.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!